Marita McNichol was awarded with the American flag Thursday in honor of her father who died after serving in World War II.
Francis P. McNichol of Fox Chase, who served in the Navy during World War II, passed away 33 years ago and was overlooked for receiving an American flag at his funeral. During military funerals for members who died while in service or veterans of any branch of the military, it’s customary to have the American flag draped over the casket as a symbol of remembrance. The flag is then presented to the next of kin, by an honor guard representing on of the five branches of the military.
“I’ve been waiting years to get a flag for my dad’s coffin and I didn’t feel right for him not to receive one for the years he gave to the military,” McNichol said. Francis McNichol did not have to go to war, due to being the last of the bloodline in his family, but decided to volunteer and serve the country during a time of need for soldiers. “He thought it was the duty to his country,” McNichol said. “He loved being in the Navy, and when he died and wasn’t recognized, it just hurt my heart. This man who worked so hard for his country, who had eight children, dropped dead at 60 and didn’t get a thing for it.”
McNichol said her father was not recognized at his funeral for being in the military because the government lost track of his records while switching ships during the war.
“The funeral home told us that they searched and searched for his name and told me that there were so many people with the same name in the Navy at that time, and they couldn’t find his identification numbers,” McNichol said. Even though it did not make his funeral service any less special, his daughter said the was something she thought he deserved.
“It has been a long time coming for this ceremony,” Pa. Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-172, said, “but at least now Francis will be remembered by the military and future generations of his family will know what a great man he was.” Boyle gathered outside his Fox Chase office to present McNichol with the flag.
McNichol decided to have her father recognized for his service after her cousin, an Iraq War veteran, died from a seizure after the war. “I was very sad for my cousin’s loss. They had a beautiful ceremony for him with horns, drum taps from servicemen, and my cousin was awarded with his flag. I thought that kind of ceremony was what my father deserved,” she said.
MicNichol said because her father volunteered, he fought the risk of getting killed in the war, without his name being able to live on. “He has grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and I want them to know what he did, how he served us, and that they may learn that if pop-pop did it, than they can do it too.”
Francis McNichol died at St. Michael’s church while giving a speech. He grew up in that parish and moved his family to Fox Chase after returning from the war. “Even though his death was sad, I believe it shows the beauty of how life comes full circle,” McNichol said. “I also believe that since it is Holy Week, I feel that my life has come full circle, because now I have a part of his death with me and I can always remember his service to America with this flag.”
Matthew Flowers is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the church where Francis McNichol died. The correction has been made, and we thank his daughter for bringing it to our attention.